If you put 1,000 meteorologists in a room and asked for a forecast, guess what you'd get? Yup...1,000 different forecasts and 1,000 different reasons why they'd be right!  The funny thing about my profession is how many so called "experts" are out there when it comes to meteorology/weather forecasting, even those without academic degrees or formal training and experience.  This has become even more rampant in the Social Media era.  There are fewer "experts" in the business of long range forecasting, like we do here at Weather Trends, yet just about everyone has their favorite method for predicting the winter - number of acorns, woolley worm coloring, analog years, oceanic climate cycles, solar cycles, etc.  It's kind of like that Holiday Inn Express commercial..."Are you a meteorologist?...No, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night..." ;)

So by now you've probably heard it's going to be an epic winter here in the U.S., even more severe than last Winter!  Hmmmmm????  The source for all the buzz is my favorite almanac, The Old Farmer's Almanac, which prints 2+ million copies a year for $6.95. Yes, they got last winter mostly right, but see below how they did on this past Summer.

From the Old Farmer's Almanac

Out of the Freezer, Into the Fire!

Last September 2013, the Almanac accurately predicted a winter forecast of bitter cold and heavy snow for most of the U.S. and Canada. This summer (2014), you might long for some of those frosty temps.  Summer is going to be a scorcher with higher-than-average temps and lower-than-average rainfall throughout most of the continent. Be prepared for record-breaking “sizzle” in parts of the country. For example, Washington DC had 32 inches of snowfall throughout the season ranking it as one of snowiest since records began in 1888. It was the winter that felt like it would never end! For summer, we predict that Washington DC will be hit with red-hot heat in the beginning of June—before summer even officially begins! The rise in the mercury will be unrelenting with the highest temperatures hitting early to mid-July and early to mid-August. Washington DC will buck one national trend with above-average rainfall. Combined with the heat, the nation’s capital will seem downright tropical. As summer winds down, a hurricane is predicted to hit the Atlantic Corridor in early- to mid-September providing one last punch.

What actually happened? The coldest Summer in 5 years with below average temperatures in the Eastern 2/3rds of the U.S. with the fewest hot, 90F days ever recorded in 120 years! Oooppsssss.  If you've been a long time fan or client of wt360 you know we called for the coldest Summer in 5 years and wet - no drought in our forecast for the Eastern half of the U.S. this Summer.  Hopefully that gives you a little hope that they can be totally wrong and not to panic on the Winter just yet. Yes, Joe Bastardi (ex long time Accu-Weather forecaster) from Weather Bell said the same thing, that Winter will be worse than last year and he does have more weather experience than the Almanac.

We're not here to discount what he-said-she-said but thought it was time to show our year-ahead Winter forecast that was sent to our weather-savvy Fortune 1000 clients back in March of this year to hopefully alleviate some of the over-stated gloom and doom in the media as of late.  And, if an almanac is $6.95 at Dollar General, good luck planning 100 million or billion dollar decisions with it. ;)   Our clients pay about 5,000 to 20,000 times the cost of an Almanac, every year, for much more detailed information on how the forecasts explicitly influence their business and they've come back every year for the past 12 years!  No one spends that kind of money if we're wrong  more than we're right.

So, let's start with the known methods to attempt long range year-ahead forecasts used by governments, academics and commercial weather firms.  1)  NOAA likes to use an El Nino/La Nina cycle and "the trend is your friend" persistence concept. If it's been hot/dry continue to forecast hot/dry.  Only problem here is the Nino index is one of dozens and they don't factor in if it's emerging, weakening, strengthening and how all the indices are interacting with the ENSO Index. Our year-ahead monthly forecasts have been validated by two PhD academics/climatologists at the University of Miami and the West Point Military Academy to outperform NOAA's month-ahead forecasts 84% of the time despite being issued 8 months prior to NOAA.  The year-ahead forecasts also show more skill than climatology more than 90% of the time, something most academics say can't be done.  NOAA vs WTI accuracy.  Here's an example of NOAA's winter outlook last year vs our year-ahead high-level Winter outlook - we actually give clients a weekly year-ahead forecast (temperatures, rainfall and snowfall) by city everywhere in the world (6.4 million locations) and state explicitly what it means for inventory allocation, replenishment, markdown timing, product mix, labor scheduling and advertising timing.  We know....boring...you just want your winter snowfall forecast.  Patience grass hopper! :)

The next method of long range forecasting is 2) an analog approach. This basically tries to line up current climate, oceanic and solar cycle indices that match a month in the past 120 years. Only problem here is you end up with scenarios that show close matches but yield very different outcomes - i.e. 5 months in the past were identical to the index alignment today, 4 were cold, 3 were near average. This gets into "consensus" that hot was the most common with 5 of 12 (41% suggesting hot, 33% suggesting cold and 25% near average). Might work OK for a month ahead forecast but not so great for year-ahead.  Many weather companies like this method.  Anyone telling you this winter is identical to last year must really love cold/snow and letting emotions get in the way of reality. For those that know about climate indices here are the differences this year vs last year - totally different!  I'm not going to explain these indices in this post as that would be a novel longer than this one. Yes, our Winter outlook is coming so read on.

Many of these indices are related to how warm or cold the oceans are, so here's a look at just how vastly different the ocean temperatures are compared to last year - again not even close to being similar to last year.

The last method we like and use is 3) good old math - statistics with a mix of 24 climate cycles, topographical factors, and a trade secret twist to bring it all together.  We think of ourselves as 95% mathematicians and 5% meteorologist, even though we all hold science degrees from Rutgers University, Penn State, Millersville University, Syracuse and State Univ of New York.  As we used to say in the Air Force, I could tell you exactly how we do it (TOP SECRET) but then I'd have to kill'ya. :)

Let's play with some examples of the easy statistics.  In the Midwest when you've had an extremely cold Winter similar to last year - what happens the following year? Well, only 3 times in 120 years of records has the Midwest had an equally cold or colder Winter. That suggests there is less than a 3% chance it will be anywhere near as brutal this year (1917 and 1918 were back-2-back frigid and of course 1977-1979). Easy - anyone can do this but for the Old Farmer's Almanac to say it will be worse than last year is very much overstated and highly unlikely.  What about the U.S. overall?  Last year the U.S. averaged 1F below average for the coldest Winter (Dec - Mar) in 32 to 36 years. If we look at those cold winters or colder over the past 120 years, 31 of the 38 following winters were warmer to much warmer 82% of the time.  Again, math alone suggests that saying this Winter will be worse than last year is disingenuous with a 18% chance at best.

What about some easy rainfall statistics for California rainfall?  Last year, as we know, was the driest in over 120 years.  When it's been that extremely dry what happens the following year?  Well, 3 times it actually got drier, 9 times it was wetter to much wetter but still below average, and 14 times it was much wetter and much above average.  So, the math suggests an 88% chance it will be much wetter, a 54% chance it's above average, and just a 12% chance it's drier.  Obviously from here we can layer in our 24 climate cycles to further refine the math to suggest California will have the wettest Winter in 10 years with the winter rainfall more than the past 3 years combined!  Not the record rainfall of the last Super El Nino in 97-98, but welcome rain even if it doesn't break the drought completely.  And don't ask me how we actually layer in all 3 forecasting methods above as again that is TOP SECRET and only about 6.5 million lines of computer code needed to make our forecasts. :) Here are some examples of our accuracy (we produce this for millions of locations) with an example in Fargo, North Dakota that shows future weekly trends.

Check out our 10-years of accuracy in New York City with this cool video (feel free to pause the video to soak it all in!).

Yes, we're making you work hard for your Winter forecast as we had some reservations in sharing this since there are a lot of big companies out there that love to get FREE information from us.  As our fans know - we issued our cold/snowy winter outlook to you much earlier last year.  So for all the big businesses out there reading this post...HERE YOU GO...YOUR FREE FORECAST...and yes we think you're cheap :) not to mention there is so much more we can tell you (aka billion dollar companies) about how this specifically influences equities, commodities, natural gas prices, seasonal category sales, GDP, etc. etc. etc. And, oh by the way, our Summer 2015 forecast is already being used by many of America's most successful and admired companies.

For the wt360 fans here's what you've been waiting for. :)

Temperatures up first.  This map is color-coded to show the change in temperatures vs last year with lines to show where temperatures will be above average (northern tier of the U.S.), average (middle U.S.) and below average (southern part of the U.S., due in large part to much wetter conditions keeping daytime temperatures relatively colder).  Obviously even the warmest temperatures in North Dakota are colder than Texas so everything is relative to your specific area.  An example on how to read the map - in the Dakotas it's much warmer than last year and warmer than average.  In New Jersey it's likely to be warmer than last year but still below average.

This chart shows we still think the Winter will be colder than average for the U.S. overall but not the epic cold some are forecasting.  Long term we are in year 7 of the cold 30-year PDO phase that started in 2007 so the frequency of colder and snowier winters is much more likely for the next 20 years.  Especially once the AMO enters it's long term cold cycle in a few years and the SUN is already entering a 300 year minimum so it all lines up to the 1700s when the world was pretty chilly! ;) Just because those cycles will be in a cold phase together for maybe 20 years does NOT mean every winter will be brutal.  The other very concerning factor in this cycle is droughts in California will be long lived so hopefully this winter does bring much needed rain as this will be a blip in an otherwise dry cycle for the next 20 years out West.

So you want the SNOW forecast next...TOO BAD...let's talk overall precipitation next! ;) It's late and this has been a long day to get all this information together so I'm sorry if the suspense is killing you.  We still think a very weak El Nino emerges in early 2015 and combined with the resurgence of a short-lived warm-up in the PDO we see the wettest winter in 17 years!  Much of this rain and snow is where they need it in the West.  When the Pacific Ocean is warm, it was cold last year and the past 7 years, you get more moisture - more evaporation, thus, more moisture for the West.  Enjoy this heavy rain the latter half of Winter out West as we're still in a long cycle that could bring 23+ more years of predominantly drought conditions.

National rainfall trends from 1992 to 2015 forecast.

So...is there anything else I could talk about before we get to the SNOW FORECAST???  How about we save the snow forecast for a few more months in a future post???  I just heard a loud roar across the fan base saying NOOOOOOOOOO...so I've tortured you long enough so here's what we see SNOW LOVERS. :)

The national trends suggests much of the snowy conditions are going to shift West this year so that will help keep the snowfall +6% above average nationally but still 8% less than last year.

Yes, we made these month-by-month snowfall charts a little harder to read but key in on the color-coding as that shows the trend vs last year.  Dark blues are at least 2x more snowfall than last year and peach colors are half as much snow as last year.  The snow in March is wet and short-lived early in the month as we do see a very warm start to Spring next year around the 2nd week in March - about 5 weeks earlier than this past year!!!!

When you add it all up from November 2014 to March 2015 here's what we see.  In areas like the Great Lakes we see below average snowfall that is 60% less than last year with a split flow jet stream making the South soggy with the polar jet spending much more time in Canada this year where it belongs!!!  With an active southern jet stream we are very concerned about a couple major ice storms from Texas to New York City.  Near wt360 Headquarters in Bethlehem, PA we had 24 snow events last year which is off the charts in terms of frequency of events.  This year closer to 10 events with many more rain storms, couple ice storms and two storms over 6" but not 24 storms this year!!!

In Detroit, for example, where last Winter was the snowiest in history with 95" you'll get a huge reprieve this winter with snowfall closer to 39" (59% less than last year, below an average year which is around 46" and below two winters ago when there was 48").  We'll explain more of this blog in future posts so for now hopefully you know more than you did before on what we see as the real deal for Winter 2014-2015 and not a hyped up forecast.

Have a great night folks. - Captain Kirk out.